Patients often get confused between cataracts and glaucoma, partly because they are both very common diseases as people get older. However, cataracts and glaucoma are very different diseases. A cataract is a clouding or hardening of the natural lens in the front portion of the eye, while glaucoma is a complex disease that leads to progressive damage to the optic nerve in the back portion of the eye. This damage leads to a progressive and irreversible loss of the visual field. We know that many people with elevated intraocular pressures (over 21 mmHg) will develop glaucomatous damage to their optic nerve; but what is more interesting is that approximately 1/3 of patients with glaucoma actually have normal intraocular pressures (between 10-21 mmHg.) Thus, most ophthalmologists now realize that this is likely not just a disease of abnormal intraocular pressure.
Unfortunately, at this point in time the only treatment shown consistently to prevent progression of glaucomatous nerve damage is lowering of intraocular pressure.
At the Las Vegas Eye Institute we have sophisticated testing machinery that allows accurate diagnosis of the disease and careful monitoring of the disease to ensure that progression is not occurring. Our laser nerve fiber analysis, digital photography of the optic nerve, sophisticated visual field testing, and advanced electronic medical records allow us to keep a close eye on your disease. This information is then used to help you understand if starting or altering treatment is necessary.
There are many available treatments for glaucoma. Most patients opt for drops, which are often a highly effective, safe, and convenient form of therapy. Dr. Swanic is also well trained in the use of the advanced SLT laser. The SLT laser can be used by most patients with glaucoma to lower their eye pressures; and it can often reduce or eliminate the need for eye drops. Patients with narrow angles (a more rare form of glaucoma) are also offered laser treatments of a different type.
The following video discusses glaucoma in more detail. We hope that watching this video will help you better understand this complex, but very important, disease.